The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is the most influential scripture in Buddhist meditation. It is the foundation text for the modern schools of ‘vipassanā’ or ‘insight’ meditation. The well-known Pali discourse is, however, only one of many early Buddhist texts that deal with mindfulness. This is the first full-scale study to encompass all extant versions of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, taking into account the dynamic evolution of the Buddhist scriptures and the broader Indian meditative culture. A new vision emerges from this groundbreaking study: mindfulness is not a system of ‘dry insight’ but is the ‘way to convergence’ leading the mind to deep states of peace.
Why are there so many schools of Buddhism? Are the differences just cultural, or do they have fundamentally different visions of Dhamma? This work assesses the claims of the traditions, and takes into account to findings of modern scholarship. It pays special attention to the origins of the monastic orders. If we are to understand the differences, and sometimes tensions, between the schools of Buddhism today, we must examine more closely the forces that spurred their formation.
Enchanting, powerful, horrific, beautiful, wise, deadly, compassionate, seductive. Women in Buddhist story and image are all these things and more. She takes the signs of the ancient goddess – the lotus, the sacred grove, the serpent, the sacrifice – and uses them in astonishing new ways. Her story is one of suffering and great trials, and through it all an unquenchable longing to be free. This beautifully illustrated work is as layered and subversive as mythology itself. Based directly on authentic Buddhist texts, and informed with insights from psychology and comparative mythology, it takes a fresh look at how Buddhist women have been depicted by men and how they have depicted themselves.
Although historically marginalized, Buddhist nuns are taking their place in modern Buddhism. Like the monks, Buddhist nuns live by an ancient system of monastic law, the Vinaya. This work investigates various areas of uncertainty and controversy in how the Vinaya is to be understood and applied today.
Generations of scholars, from the inception of the modern study of Buddhism, have established a long-lasting and relatively stable consensus regarding the texts and history of early Buddhism. While inevitably subject to the usual kinds of uncertainty, incompleteness, and evolution, this consensus has provided a framework for the positive development of our understanding of the Buddha, his teachings, and his community. This consensus has been challenged by the prominent Amercian academic, Gregory Schopen. His essays have been the most influential reassessment in the history of Buddhist studies. Many of his ideas are regarded as virtually canonical in modern academia, and have permeated far beyond the normal reach of Buddhist academic work. However, his arguments are far better regarded among non-specialists than among those who actually study early Buddhism. This essay shows a number of flaws and problems with Schopen’s work on early Buddhism, by implication supporting the traditional consensus.
Devadatta is depicted as the archetypal villain in all Buddhist traditions. Reginald Ray has argued for a radical reassessment of Devadatta as a forest saint who was unfairly maligned in later monastic Buddhism. His work has been influential, but it relies on omissions and mistaken readings of the sources. Ray’s claim that ‘there is no overlap between the Mahāsaṅghika treatment [of Devadatta] and that of the five [Sthavira] schools’ is untrue. On the contrary, the manner in which Devadatta is depicted in the Mahāsaṅghika is broadly similar to the Sthavira accounts. Such differences as do exist are literary rather than doctrinal. The stories of Devadatta’s depravity became increasingly lurid in later Buddhism, but this is a normal feature of the mythologizing process, and has nothing to do with any antagonism against forest ascetics. In any case, the early sources are unanimous in condemning Devadatta as the instigator of the first schism in the Buddhist community.
The First Council was a critical turning point in Buddhist history, defining the direction Buddhism was to take after the death of its founder. Here is the account from the Mahīśāsaka Vinaya, translated from the Chinese canon.
In the debate about bhikkhuni ordination, information plays a key role. We have made substantial strides in our understanding of Buddhism in history, the relation between different Buddhist traditions, and so on. Unfortunately, little of this information has permeated into the tradition Sangha bodies. Century-old textbooks are not corrected, not matter how obvious their mistakes are.
While the abhidhamma is presented as being based on the Buddha’s ultimate discernment of ‘mind & matter’, in reality the classical Theravādin abhidhamma is a scholastic philosophy which is little understood, and which, if examined critically, is full of incoherencies. Within Buddhist tradition, however, the abhidhamma is perhaps more significant for its purely religious or mystical significance, rather than as a guide for practice or understanding.
The Buddha’s words exemplify peace, teach us peace, and lead to the ultimate peace of Nibbana. It is a sad thing that in the complexities and contradictions of Buddhist history, peace has sometimes been sacrificed on the altar of Buddhist nationalism. By asking the hard questions and accepting the answers fearlessly we can arrive at the essential, the true state of peace, for the sake of which all Buddhist ethics, meditation, and wisdom are taught.